The history of the Samsung Galaxy Note series: Time to say good bye?

The history of the Samsung Galaxy Note series: Time to say good bye?

Usually, the period between August - September is that time of the year when us tech reviewers rave about the just-released Samsung Galaxy Note handsets. Since 2011, when the first Galaxy Note was released, this had almost become a habit. This year, however, was different. For reasons best known to Samsung, the company decided against launching a 2021 edition of the Samsung Galaxy Note and wanted us to drool over their foldable line up instead.

Galaxy Note fans across the world were obviously disappointed by the turn of events. In fact, even now, there is no indication as to whether Samsung has canned the Note lineup for good or if this is just a temporary delay. Maybe there will actually be a Samsung Galaxy Note 22 next year?

There are several questions that desperately need answers. But that is the subject for a different article. Today, in this article, we take a look at the illustrious (and occasionally controversial) history of the Samsung Galaxy Note Series from 2011 until 2020.

Samsung Galaxy Note: The Genesis

Announced: October 2011 

The smartphone space in 2011 was nothing like it is today. In 2011, it had been four years since the first iPhone had launched and Steve Jobs had (in)famously proclaimed a few months ago that a 3.5-inch display is the “right” size for smartphone displays. In fact, he went on to claim that no one would buy phones with larger displays. 

Almost as a mark of defiance, just months after Steve Jobs made this comment, Samsung came up with the first-gen Samsung Galaxy Note with a gargantuan 5.3-inch display. The Galaxy Note did everything against Steve Jobs' idea of a smartphone at the time. When the Samsung Galaxy Note did launch, it sported among the largest displays on any smartphone.

To make matters even more interesting, Samsung also shipped the phone with a stylus - something that Steve Jobs himself had famously pooh-poohed and discarded back in 2007. If going against tradition was an art, the Galaxy Note series was the artist spearheading an an entire movement.

Galaxy Note 1
The first ever Samsung Galaxy Note was revolutionary for its time!/ © Samsung

To Samsung’s delight, and much to the chagrin of Apple, the Samsung Galaxy Note was a grand success. Barely a month since its launch, Samsung managed to sell more than 1 million units of the Galaxy Note. By August 2012, the company managed to sell more than 10 million units! The writing was on the wall. People loved phones with huge displays. Steve Jobs - and Apple - were proved wrong. The ‘Phablet’ was born.

Galaxy Note: Key Specs

The highlight feature of the first generation Galaxy Note was its large 5.3-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels - and support for the first generation S-Pen. The latter eventually went on to become an USP of the Note series.

Depending on which part of the world you lived, you had to choose from the Samsung Exynos 4210 variant of the phone or go with the other option based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 chip. The phone came with 1GB of RAM and offered 16/32GB storage options - with support for memory expansion.

  • Camera: 8MP rear, 1080p video, 2MP front, VGA video
  • Networks: 3G, LTE (2012 models)
  • Software: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) upgradeable to Android 4.1 (JellyBean) with Samsung TouchWiz UI.
  • Battery: 2,500 mAh

Remembered for

Opening up an entirely new category of large-screened smartphones. The stylus was brought back from the dead. It was also a true-blue flagship of its time.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2: Doubling it down

Announced: August 2012

Riding high on the confidence from the unprecedented success of the first-gen Galaxy Note, Samsung followed it up with the Galaxy Note 2 the very next year. The product featured several improvements over the original Note - including an even larger 5.5-inch display, and an improved stylus. The result? Consumers lapped up the Note 2 in hordes and Samsung managed to sell 5 million units within the first two months since its launch. The Note went on to sell more than 30 million units over its lifetime.

Galaxy Note 2
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 came out in 2012 / © Samsung

Key Specs

  • Display: 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display, 1280 x 720 pixels
  • SoC Options: Samsung Exynos 4412, Qualcomm Snapdragon 600
  • RAM/ Storage: 2GB (LPDDR2) with 16/32/64GB options and support for microSD cards
  • Camera: 8MP rear, 1080p video 1.9MP front, 720p, Slow motion at 120 fps
  • Software: Android 4.1.1 ‘Jelly Bean’, upgradeable to Android 4.4.2 ‘KitKat, Samsung TouchWiz UI
  • Battery: 3,100 mAh

Remembered for

Improving the S Pen performance over the original Galaxy Note. The Note 2 was also widely praised for its display which at the time was considered to be the best smartphone display ever made until then. In 2016, in India, a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 sparked and smoked while inside an aircraft. Following this, the Indian aviation regulator sent out an advisory asking people to turn all Samsung smartphones off while inside an aircraft.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3: Lighter, more premium than ever before

Announced: September 2013

By 2013, the Samsung Galaxy Note series had established itself as a premium product line. In fact, Samsung wanted the consumer to take note of this as well. The result? Samsung tried to make the Galaxy Note 3 look premium with a plastic leather and faux stitching. It was also quite a bit thinner than its predecessor while also featuring a larger, 5.7-inch display.

And this time around, Samsung also upped the display resolution to FHD. Oh, and it was also the first smartphone to feature support for USB 3.0 standards. The Note 3 also featured support for air hand gestures for the first time and had a dedicated sensor for the same. The 

Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 / © Samsung

Key Specs

  • Display: 5.7-inch FHD Super AMOLED
  • SoC Options: Samsung Exynos 5420, Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
  • RAM/ Storage: 3GB (LPDDR3) with 16/32/64GB options and support for microSD cards
  • Camera: 8MP rear, 1080p video 1.9MP front, 720p, Slow motion at 120 fps
  • Software: Android 4.3 ‘Jelly Bean’, upgradeable to Android 5.0 Lollipop, Samsung TouchWiz NatureUX 2.5
  • Battery: 3,200 mAh

Remembered for

Widely praised for its improvements over the Note 2. Faced quality control issues with the home button which loosened and shifted over time. The Note 3 was also well received with 10 million units sold within the first two months.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo

Announced: February 2014

In February 2014, Samsung, for the first time, announced a ‘watered down’, lower priced version of a Galaxy Note series device. Known as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo, it was closely related to the original Galaxy Note 3 in terms of design but featured a smaller display with lower resolution. While not as successful as its larger, more expensive sibling, the Note 3 Neo made for an attractive proposition for people who did not want to spend too much money on the flagship grade Note 3.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo was a 'Lite' version of the original Note 3 / © Samsung

Key Specs

  • Display: 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED
  • SoC options: Exynos 5260, Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 (Dual SIM), Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (South Korea)
  • RAM/Storage: 2GB LPDDR3, 16/32GB, microSD card supported
  • Camera: 8MP Rear, 1080p videos, 2MP front
  • Software: Android 4.3 ‘Jellybean, upgradable to Android 5.1.1 ‘Lollipop’
  • Battery: 3100 mAh

Remembered for

Bringing down the entry barrier to the Galaxy Note series. The phone was not sold in several developed markets like the UK and the US.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: QHD Videos become a reality

Announced: September 2014

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 was widely thought to be an incremental update over the Note 3 from 2013. The display size and the design language, for example, remained quite similar. While the Note 4 went on to become a popular smartphone, selling over 5 million units in the first month alone, the eventual sales figures were slightly lower than that of the Note 3. The Note 4 was also the first handset in the series to bring support for 4K video recording and to also sport a 2K display. 

Yes, the Note 3 did support 4K a year ago - but this feature was restricted to the Qualcomm variant of the phone.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4
The Galaxy Note 4 from 2014/ © NextPit

Key Specs

  • Display: 5.7-inch QHD, Super AMOLED
  • SoC Options: Exynos 7 5433, Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
  • RAM/Storage: 3GB LPDDR3, 16/32GB, microSD support
  • Rear camera: 16MP with AF and OIS, 4K video recording, 1080p at 30fps
  • Front camera: 3.7 MP, 1440p video recording
  • Software: Android 4.4.4 Kitkat - upgradable to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • Battery: 3220 mAh, 15W charging

Remembered for

The Note 4 brought major upgrades in terms of video recording capabilities and was among the first handsets to natively support 4K video recording. The Chinese version of the phone was interesting in itself as it came with a non-user replaceable battery unlike the other models.

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Announced: September 2014

The Galaxy Note Edge was announced alongside the standard Note 4, and is widely considered to be a brave move on part of Samsung to experiment. While it retained most of the hardware specs of the Note 4, the USP of the Note Edge was its display which was curved towards one side. This curve was significant enough for Samsung to use the side strip as an additional edge display. 

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge could turn heads even today!/ © Samsung

Key specs

  • Display: 5.6-inch QHD, Super AMOLED, Curved
  • SoC Options: Exynos 7 5433, Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
  • RAM/Storage: 3GB LPDDR3, 32/64GB, microSD support
  • Rear camera: 16MP with AF and OIS, 4K video recording, 1080p at 30fps
  • Front camera: 3.7 MP, 1440p video recording
  • Software: Android 4.4.4 Kitkat - upgradable to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • Battery: 3000 mAh, 15W charging

Remembered for

The outrageous curved screen that only curved on one side!

Samsung Galaxy Note 5: Controversial changes, Skipped Europe

Announced: August 2015

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 was the harbinger of several changes to the Note lineup. Some of the decisions made by Samsung - including the removal of expandable storage and non user removable battery received widespread criticism from dedicated Note fanboys. Samsung also made a surprise move and chose to not release this phone in European markets and positioned the Galaxy S6 Edge+ as a viable alternative there.

At the same time, the phone did receive positive reviews from across the board especially with respect to its upgraded build quality, camera, and improvement in performance across the board. The Note 5 also ran the upgraded TouchWiz UI which was renamed to Samsung Experience 8.0.

GSamsung Galaxy Note 5
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 came with some controversial changes/ © NextPit

Key specs

  • Display: 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED
  • SoC options: Samsung Exynos 7 7420
  • RAM/Storage: 4GB LPDDR4, 32/64GB UFS 2.0
  • Rear camera: 16MP with OIS, 4K video capture
  • Front camera: 5MP
  • Software: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, upgradable to Android 7, Nougat, Samsung Experience UX
  • Battery: 3000 mAh

Remembered for

Being the first Galaxy Note series device to not feature memory expansion and removable battery. However, this did not prevent the Note 5 from selling pretty well. It was among the most popular Android smartphones of 2016.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7: The unmitigated disaster

Announced: August 2016

Samsung skipped the Galaxy Note 6 moniker in 2016 to let it bring the Note lineup in parity with the numbering of the Galaxy S series. Therefore, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was released the same year as the Samsung Galaxy S7. The Note 7 was designed from the ground up to be a massive improvement over the Note 5.

Most importantly, Samsung listened to feedback from its consumers and brought back expandable storage on the phone. The Note 7 was also IP68 water resistant which more than made up for the lack of a removable battery. The phone was also among the first to sport an iris scanner for biometric authentication. 

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 had everything going for it. Great design, excellent features, good software and renewed consumer interest. However, everything went for a toss after a series of battery related fires resulted in a complete product recall. It was found that there was an inherent issue with the battery used on the Note 7.

Samsung was forced to recall all Galaxy Note 7 units and suspended sales completely. The company did go on to launch a device called the Galaxy Note 7 FE - with a smaller, non defective battery-  in select markets. But the damage was already done.

Galaxy Note7
The Note Samsung wants all of us to forget / © Samsung

Key Specs

  • Display: 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED
  • SoC options: Samsung Exynos 8890, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
  • RAM/Storage: 4GB LPDDR4, 64GB UFS 2.0, SD card support
  • Rear camera: 12MP with OIS, 4K video capture
  • Front camera: 5MP, with wide angle lens
  • Software: Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, Android 7 Nougat, Samsung Experience 8.1
  • Battery: 3500 mAh, 3000 mAh (Fan Edition)

Remembered for

While it will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, the Note 7 did come with its share of firsts. It was the first Note series device to feature a USB-C port, and the last one to feature a physical home button. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 8: The Phoenix rises

Announced: August 2017

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 had a lot riding on it since it was the successor to the infamous Galaxy Note 7. Samsung had a lot to prove to its detractors and honestly, the Note 8 did deliver on most counts. It was the first smartphone from Samsung to feature dual cameras and its S-Pen featured a host of new innovations. The Note 8 also featured support for Samsung DeX.

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was well-received across the board and managed to sail past all the bad press caused by the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. Oh, and lest we forget, this was the first Galaxy Note series device to breach the 6-inch mark in terms of display size and to also get a tall aspect ratio.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Galaxy Note 8/ © NextPit

Key Specs

  • Display: 6.3 inches, QHD+ Super AMOLED
  • SoC options: Samsung Exynos 8895, Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • RAM/Storage: 6GB LPDDR4X, 64/128/256GB UFS 2.0, SD card support
  • Rear camera: 12MP with OIS, 4K video capture, 12MP telephoto with OIS, 4K video capture
  • Front camera: 8MP, with wide angle lens
  • Software: Android 7.1.1 Nougat upgradable to  Android 9 Pie, Samsung Experience 8.5, One UI 1.0
  • Battery: 3300 mAh, 15W charging

Remembered for 

For the first dual camera smartphone from Samsung. The design was also widely praised and so was support for iP68 water resistance. It did receive criticism for the placement of the rear mounted fingerprint scanner. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 9: A refined Note 8

Announced: August 2018

By 2018, people had long forgotten the Galaxy Note 7 disaster and the popularity of the Note series had picked up again. The Note 8 from 2017 did great and Samsung did not feel necessary to tinker too much with the features of that phone. Effectively, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 ended up being an incremental upgrade over the Note 8 with slight improvements to select features. The phone did a look quite a bit different from the Galaxy Note 8.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was a minor upgrade over the Note 8/ © NextPit

Key Specs

  • Display: 6.4 inches, QHD+ Super AMOLED
  • SoC options: Samsung Exynos 9810, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
  • RAM/Storage: 6/8GB LPDDR4X, 128/256GB UFS 2.1, SD card support
  • Rear camera: 12MP with OIS, 4K video capture, 12MP telephoto with OIS, 4K video capture
  • Front camera: 8MP, with wide angle lens
  • Software: Android 8.1 Oreo, upgradable to  Android 10, Samsung Experience 9.5 and  One UI 2.5
  • Battery: 4000 mAh, 15W charging

Samsung Galaxy Note 10, 10+: Two is better than one!

Announced: August 2019

2019 saw Samsung announce not one - but two Samsung Galaxy Note devices. This was the first time the company launched two Galaxy Note variants on the same day. Consumers had the option to choose from the standard Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the more expensive and larger Galaxy Note 10+.

Both the handsets also became the first Galaxy Note devices to omit the 3.5mm audio jack. The camera setup also saw a significant update with the Note 10 series with the devices jumping from a dual camera setup on the Note 9 to a quad camera array on the Note 10 series.

androidpit samsung galaxy note 10 plus vs note 10 1
The Galaxy Note 10 series © NextPit

Key specs (Note 10)

  • Display: 6.3-inch, Dynamic AMOLED, Infinity O, 2400×1080 pixels, HDR10+
  • SoC options: Samsung Exynos 9 Series 9825, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
  • RAM/Storage: 8/12GB, 256GB UFS 3.0, SD card support
  • Rear camera: 
  • 12MP Telephoto Camera OIS
  • 12MP Wide-angle Camera OIS
  • 16MP Ultra Wide Camera
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Software: Android 9 Pie, upgradable to Android 11, One UI 3.0
  • Battery: 3500 mAh, 25W charging


Key specs (Note 10+)

  • Display: 6.3-inch, Dynamic AMOLED, Infinity O, 3040×1440 pixels, HDR10+
  • SoC options: Samsung Exynos 9 Series 9825, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
  • RAM/Storage: 12GB, 256/512GB UFS 3.0, SD card support
  • Rear camera: 12MP Telephoto Camera OIS
  • 12MP Wide-angle Camera OIS
  • 16MP Ultra Wide Camera
  • VGA DepthVision 
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Software: Android 9 Pie, upgradable to Android 11, One UI 3.0
  • Battery: 4500 mAh, 45W charging

Remembered for

The Note 10 series shall be remembered for improving the charging speeds on the Note series after several years. The Note 10+ supported 45W fast charging which was a welcome change from the 15W charging speeds from the yesteryears.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite was announced a few months after the ‘original’ Note 10 handsets. This was the first ‘mid-range’ Galaxy Note series handset since the Note 3 Neo from 2013 and primarily targeted emerging markets in Asia. The phone was also launched in several other markets.  The phone also came with a headphone jack which was missing on the other two Note 10 series devices. 

samsung galaxy note 10 lite 2
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite/ © Winfuture

Key specs

  • Display: 6.7-inch, Dynamic AMOLED, Infinity O, 2400×1080 pixels, HDR10+
  • SoC options: Samsung Exynos 9 Series 9810
  • RAM/Storage: 6/8GB, 128GB UFS 2.1, SD card support
  • Rear camera: 
  • 12MP main camera
  • 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera
  • 12MP telephoto camera
  • Front camera: 32MP
  • Software: Android 10, upgradable to Android 11, One UI 3.1
  • Battery: 4500 mAh, 25W charging

Galaxy Note 20/Note 20 Ultra

Announced: August 2020

The Galaxy Note 20 series remain the last Note series handsets to be ever announced. The devices feature several incremental upgrades over the Note 10 line-up from 2019. As was the case with the Note 10 lineup, the lower priced of the two devices came with lesser features and did not get a 120Hz display and the microSC card slot that the Note 20 Ultra came with.

There are several differences in the camera setup as well. Both versions of the phone also came in separate LTE and 5G variants depending on where they were sold.

NextPit samsung galaxy note 20 note 20 ultra comparison front cf1
The Samsung galaxy Note 20 series. The last Galaxy Note phones/ © NextPit

Key specs (Samsung Galaxy Note 20)

  • Display: 6.7-inch, Dynamic AMOLED, 2400×1080 pixels, 120Hz
  • SoC options: Samsung Exynos 9 Series 990,  Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
  • RAM/Storage: 8/12GB LPDDR5, 128/256/512GB UFS 3.0,
  • Rear camera: 
  • 12MP main camera
  • 64MP telephoto camera
  • 12MP ultrawide camera
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Software: Android 10, upgradable to Android 11, One UI 3.0
  • Battery: 4300 mAh, 25W charging

Key specs (Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra)

  • Display: 6.9-inch, Dynamic AMOLED, 3088×1080 pixels, 120Hz
  • SoC options: Samsung Exynos 9 Series 990,  Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+
  • RAM/Storage: 8/12GB LPDDR5, 128/256/512GB UFS 3.0, SD card support
  • Rear camera: 
  • 108MP main camera
  • 12MP telephoto camera
  • 12MP ultrawide camera
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Software: Android 10, upgradable to Android 11, One UI 3.0
  • Battery: 4500 mAh, 25W charging

Remembered for

The last Samsung Galaxy Note devices ever? Let’s hope not!

Well that sums up our brief take on the decade long journey of the Samsung Galaxy Nite series. We know this was a rather long read - but then we tried up summing an eventful 10 year history in a single article. At this juncture, we really do not know if the Galaxy Note series will ever make a comeback.

But whatever direction Samsung takes with the note series, there is no denying the impact this lineup from the company had on the evolution of the modern smartphone. And this legacy alone is worthy enough for Samsung to consider reviving the lineup next year.

Do you agree?

4 comments

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  • nightflyer2131 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    Hell or high water I'm a note fan through and through, holding on to the far far far .....far future


  • paul alibone 1 month ago Link to comment

    I hope this (note 20 ultra) isn't the last. The series is too good and better than any other manufacturer prime model!


  • David Vega 1 month ago Link to comment

    Very good article. Hopefully Samsung will bring it back or it least make a foldable version of it.


    • Rahul Srinivas
      • Admin
      • Staff
      1 month ago Link to comment

      Thank you so much, David :)
      And yes I hope they bring the Note back. A proper one at that - with space for the S-Pen.

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